PEARL network research

April 5, 2010
Ashley Grill, RDH, a coordinator at the PEARL Network, shares how becoming a PEARL practice can enhance your patients, practice, and professional growth.

Ashley Grill, RDH, BSHD, MPH, a coordinator at the PEARL Network, shares how becoming a PEARL practice can enhance your patients, practice, and professional growth.

How did you get involved with the PEARL Network?

Last year, my family relocated to New York City, and I’ve been enjoying experiencing it all ever since. I went from driving my station wagon all over to riding the subways, buses, walking, and hailing cabs. Now I spend more time finding parking than driving. I love the energy and culture of New York City, and I am excited for my daughter to grow up in such a vibrant community.

After we settled in, I obtained my license to practice in New York, and I began my search for a dental hygiene opportunity. Late last year, I found a link to ADHA's career center Web site with the position at the PEARL Network posted. The ADHA is a valuable resource, and my membership has given me many opportunities.

What can you tell us about the PEARL Network?

The PEARL Network (Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning) is a network of practicing dentists who conduct clinical research while providing care for their patients. Usually, a practitioner-investigator (P-I) is a general dentist with an established practice, has access to the Internet in the office, and has a practice research coordinator (PRC) who is a dedicated staff member.

The distinguishing feature of the PEARL Network is their team of Clinical Research Associates (CRAs) who interface with offices to ensure data quality. CRAs are professional research staff, and in the PEARL Network, some are registered dental hygienists.

Research ideas at the PEARL Network are generated by the P-Is, and studies address clinically relevant problems, such as the causes for postoperative hypersensitivity after the placement of resin-based composite restorations, the most effective and economical treatment non-carious hypersensitive cervical lesions, risk factors associated with the development of osteonecrosis of the jaw, and other topics important to clinicians.

P-Is are involved at all levels of the study process, including development of the protocol, recruitment, publishing, and dissemination of findings at local and national meetings.

As a hygienist, what role could I play in PEARL research?

• Inform your practice about the PEARL Network: Visit and read about the latest research findings in the PEARL newsletter, and share information with your practice.

• Become a Practice Research Coordinator: If you are looking for an opportunity for professional growth, then you may like becoming a Practice Research Coordinator (PRC). Every dental practice that participates in the PEARL Network has a PRC, who can be a hygienist, is human subject certified through a CITI tutorial training program, and follows Good Clinical Practice (GCP) standards. (At least one dentist P-I and one PRC is required for each practice site.) Some of the benefits of joining the network are that it is fun to talk to patients about this unique opportunity to participate in research, it distinguishes the practice, and every year there is a PEARL Network Annual Meeting where you can network with other PRCs and P-Is. This year the meeting will be hosted in Washington D.C.

• Become a Clinical Research Associate. Once you have experience in clinical research, you may be eligible to take a clinical research associate examination and become professional research staff at an organization like the PEARL Network, or in a related field.

What would be the best first steps of involvement?

• Join the PEARL Network: Once your dental team is ready to join, your dentist will need to go to the website and fill out a profile to become a PEARL P-I: Please feel free to contact me, and I’ll help you get any forms you’ll need. [email protected] or 212-992-7144.

• Enroll patients into studies. Once your practice site is activated and trained, then you can begin enrolling patients into studies, and have the potential to positively impact the future practice of dentistry.

Ashley Grill, RDH, BSDH, MPH, is appointed as a coordinator at the PEARL Network. She has over 10 years of experience in a variety of oral health care roles including: clinical practice, research, teaching, dental insurance, and patient advocacy. Currently, she is at the “Practitioners Engaged in Applied Research and Learning” or the PEARL Network funded by the National Institute of Health. Her daily work involves coordinating protocol development, training materials, and information dissemination. Earlier in her career, Ms. Grill worked in a multi-specialty dental practice in Boston, MA and during graduate school was an oral health consultant for the non-profit Community Health Access Network in Raymond, NH. Ms. Grill has also been part of the State Oral Health Collaborative Systems (SOHCS) Grant training primary care providers and dentists to screen infants and children for early childhood caries in New Hampshire. Most recently, Ms. Grill was the oral health program manager for Northeast Delta Dental where she developed educational materials and coordinated clinical research projects like the CARE Test. The CARE Test is a salivary diagnostic test that measures the sugar chains in saliva and may predict caries risk. She also worked on projects like a Medical Dental Integration Survey that looks at the role of dentists and physicians in oral healthcare. Ms. Grill has been a past president of the New Hampshire Dental Hygienists’ Association, and a former Board Member of the New Hampshire Public Health Association. Ms. Grill’s unique dental skill set will be a valuable asset as the PEARL Network continues to expand and develop.